(Adds analyst comment, detail)
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume
PARIS Feb 10 French carmaker Renault
posted record full-year sales and profits on Friday and set
itself ambitious new mid-term goals for both after earnings were
boosted by a comprehensive revamp of its product range.
Operating profit jumped 38 percent to 3.282 billion euros in
2016 on 51.2 billion euros in revenue, up 13.1 percent, Renault
said. That lifted its operating profit margin to 6.4 percent
from 5.2 percent - meeting existing targets a year early.
The results were achieved "in spite of the fact that some of
our important markets are still significantly lower," Chief
Financial Officer Clotilde Delbos said. "That means there is
plenty of potential for Renault to continue to grow."
Renault increased its market share in all regions last year,
according to sales data published in January, thanks to a recent
rush of product launches and the success of low-cost models such
as the Duster and Kwid SUVs.
The group set new five-year goals including a 7 percent
operating margin and 70 billion euros in revenue - a further 37
percent increase on last year's level - to be measured in 2022.
It raised its proposed dividend to 3.15 euros per share from the
2.40 paid out last year.
The full-year results largely beat market expectations of
3.07 billion euros in operating profit on revenue of 50.84
billion, according to the median of estimates given in an
Inquiry Financial poll of nine analysts for Reuters.
However, savings in variable production costs amounted to
184 million euros for 2016, short of a 350 million target. The
group had warned in July that higher research and development
spending could imperil that goal.
The effect of pricing and mix - reflecting customers' choice
of vehicles and options - turned negative in the second half,
paring 20 million euros from profits after a 135 million
positive first-half contribution.
These setbacks "will likely temper the upper end of
consensus upgrades", Exane BNP analyst Dominic O'Brien said in a
note. "The key here though will be the mid-term plan, (which)
will likely re-ignite interest in the stock."
The embattled Brazilian and Russian auto markets should
bottom out at "stable" levels this year, Renault said, while
China expands a further 5 percent and India grows 8 percent.
For 2017, the group pledged further growth in revenue and
operating profit underpinned by positive automotive free cash
(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Greg Mahlich)